Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Charity is more than giving things to poor people. Charity is love, and that is what was shown at Impact in December. Sure, arranging the gift-giving between needy families, and families that wanted to be helpful was a taxing effort for the go-between ministers, Impact members and various volunteers, but it was well worth it to connect households through charity. Did the needy families ASK for help? Maybe in some instances, but rarely. Did the giving families and churches HAVE to give anything to these families? Not in the least. But there is something inside of us that enjoys giving to others, and that desires to make a difference or extend blessings to others. That "something" was put there by God, and these opportunities to give have been made possible through the dreams, passions, and determinations of His servants at Impact and various other churches in the Houston area. We plan on continuing in allowing families to continue to exercise their charity, just as we continue to minister to families and individuals who are in great need. That desire comes from God, and continues through the prayer and support of the many people who want to be a part of expressing charity: the grace that was first shown to us which overwhelms us to pass along to others. Please keep praying for Impact and for what God can do through you and us together for Him.

p.s. Let the blogger wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. My family is here to serve through the charity of the Kingwood Church of Christ. Thank God for them, and thank God for all of you who keep the work and ministries at Impact going.
Dios te bendiga,
Steven Wells and Family

Suit Up and Show Up, and God Will Do the Rest

Some days you don’t want to get up. Some days you just don’t want to face what you know is coming. Some days you just don’t know what to expect. Some days are like all the others, while others bring the unexpected. But you wake up and the day is here.

How do you see that day? Are you wondering where your next meal will come from? Maybe you have a good idea where you might find work, but you can’t seem to find enough change for the bus to get across town where the opportunity awaits, (if it still is available). Maybe you know that you will get what you need today, but the people you will probably see are just waiting to give you grief. Will you make it through the day without being abused? These are a few of the contemplations common in the “Wards” of downtown Houston, as well as many other places all around us.

Speaking with my buddy Darrell, I am always reminded of the kind of day it is going to be. Today is the Lord’s day. What a blessing just to be able to get up and breathe! But I’m not just gonna sit here and be glad to be alive. If this day was given to me by my Creator and God, then I know He has work for me to do. There’s a purpose for this day. Whether it turns out to be so similar to many other days, or whether it contains an unexpected turn, it is my job to face it. I need to be prepared for whatever He brings my way. This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

But what if what today brings some horrible event? What if I’m faced with something I don’t feel like I can do? It doesn’t matter. God brought it to you. Your job in the morning is to “suit up and show up.” Outside of that, what are YOU going to do today really? Wake up with praise on your lips, suit up with the full armor of God in your morning time with Him. Go out into the world ready to serve, knowing that the strength you need for EVERYTHING will be given to you as He apportions it. Just suit up and show up, and God will do the rest. That is something worth getting up to see. That is something worth getting up to do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

“Thank you Lord, for Impact”

In the Spirit of the Holidays, we would like to express our thanks to God for all of His provision and blessing, especially the blessing of IMPACT. Here are what some members wanted to express:

"I am thankful for the Impact people that go outta their way to help me and others even when they don't deserve it" - Ashely Cooks

More “Thank You” notes to God...

The first grade girls on Wednesday nights are thankful for God, their family, friends, the entire 1st grade girls class, and Miss Ashely & Miss Chevone.

I am thankful for being God ‘s servant and praying he allows me to continue to spread his word to his kingdom. I am thankful for family and friends. -Chevone McKinney

I am thankful for the lessons I am learning from the Impact children. Some are wise beyond their years, and some just want to have fun. With that combination, ministry at Impact is an adventure!
-Laurie Templeton

I'm thankful for how God always provides. That can sound a bit trite and over-used, but I am continually reminded that during the ups and downs of ministry and what feels like a constant high-wire act of balancing limited resources, God always provides (sometimes through people like you) just what we need to accomplish what He has called us to do. -Patrick Lemmons

"I am thankful that Impact is a praying church, they will
never leave you without calling on God." - Barbara Garcia

I am thankful to work for a church that makes families a priority. I am thankful to work with men and women who love God and Jesus and are not ashamed of them. I am thankful for my wife and son. -Wesley J Fikes

Se compuesto mi vida. Impact ha cambiado mi vida. Soy muy bendecida. Hay mucho que contarme aqui. Es un privilegio estar aquĆ­. –Gloria Ponce

I am thankful to be part of a ministry that loves and serves physically and mentally challenged people.
I am thankful that Impact will be celebrating a twenty year anniversary in January 2007. I am thankful God has provided for Impact for 20 years by way of His wonderfully generous followers.
I am thankful underserved children have a place to learn about Jesus.
I am thankful that God loves people.
-Paul Woodward

“Over 20 years I think of all the people who are now waiting for the rest of us in Heaven. There are many who are now with the Lord, who came to faith through the outreach at Impact. There is quite a group from Ind. Hall: Vera Dement, Mary Foster, Ann Haley, Faye Miget, Ray, Bobby Kearns, Texas Dabney, Big John O'Laughlin, Ron Brown, and Sandra Luce.

Many of our "Outdoorsmen" lived a short time on the earth, but have eternity to enjoy the Lord. Some names that come to mind are: Dick, Danny, Cowboy, Ron, John, Bobby, Vladimir (Gary Polsgrove), and Jim Hatley. Several of them we helped unite with loved ones here. They will bless us with a grand reunion in the hereafter.” -Ron Sellers

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making an Impact in Cuba
Impact Members help send Minister to train Ministers.

With the help of Impact members and other friends, bilingual minister Steven Wells and local minister and professor at TGCBI, Armando Alaniz were recently sent to Cuba. Not the easiest trip to arrange, God made it possible for these two men to enter the country under a religious visa to present an educational seminar to 33 ministers from congregations scattered throughout the country. Experiencing a socialist society, striking differences made lasting impressions. Always punctual and very disciplined, the Cuban people look out for one another, which is a great quality, even if it is out of a deep rooted sense of duty to the state. The students took full advantage of their opportunities to learn about communication skills and teaching principles that they could take home and teach to their respective congregations. Every opportunity to gather is seized because they know that their religious liberties have limitations. They are free to spread their message of hope to a lost world, which is a freedom that is not taken lightly. Pray for the work in Cuba, as God has raised up passionate leaders, and dedicated churches who are grateful for what they are given and eager to make an Impact for Christ.

Bountiful Harvest Shows What CAN Happen

The Angleton Church of Christ congregation showed that nothing is impossible with God’s help. Last year, they collected enough cans to take care of the Impact Distribution Center’s need for the entire year. The day before the last can ran out, Angleton topped their efforts during their “Mission Possible” campaign where our own Les Rose was a featured speaker. The second night, Angleton made a special presentation of 10,445 cans of food for Impact’s food distribution. We expect this to meet another year’s needs for the homeless and needy families in our area.
Les Rose is thankful for the amazing outpouring of generosity by churches like Angleton and others that donate resources, time, financial help, and prayer support to fuel the ministries of Impact.

Fall Festival Fun

On October 28th, we loaded up two buses and six vans with 140 princesses, Spidermen, bunny rabbits, and cute little monsters. The Fall Festival at Memorial Church of Christ was an absolute frightening sucess! Many thanks go to Fall Festival Co-chairs Patrice McKinney, Connie McCaskell, and their hosts of volunteers. We love you and we cannot wait until next year's Fall Festival. -Laurie Templeton

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just Gotta Take Out the "I" Factor

“I’m just an Easter Lilly, Swaying to and Fro, Spreading Joy and Sunshine, Everywhere I go.”

Darrell Washington remembers this little poem he learned for a program from when he was 5 years old. After spending a lifetime of trying to find a lifestyle suited to his own desires, his roller coaster of experiences found him crashed at the bottom of existence.
Not until he stumbled across Impact’s outdoorsman program did Darrell really begin to find something to cling to: Jesus. It was His voice that helped him to, instead, “let go.”
That is what keeps him going. Utter dependence on God. He comes up to Impact all week long to cook and clean in the kitchen. Yes, he’s there to serve, but he claims that he has to be there because he can’t survive on his own. Still haunted by his former life, he wakes up daily thankful for another day, and uses the entire time trying to keep the focus on God, not himself. In fact, he uses that same message to minister to those around him, reminding them to take out the “I” factor and live for God’s purposes. He’s quick to remind you of his constant struggles, but his enthusiasm for prayer and redirecting attention to God speaks powerfully for the way God is working in his heart. Whether it’s a childhood poem or an answered prayer, Darrell gets the message that this life is about glorifying the Father, and he remembers his purpose: “spreading God’s joy and sunshine everywhere he goes.”
That’s what Darrell does for me, at least, every time I see him. I’d thank him, but he’d just say, “No. Thank God!” -Steven Wells

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Taking Tulsa for Christ!
High School Mission Trip 2006 – Tulsa, OK
by Dennis Jaeger
“God has conquered the world, Tulsa should not be a problem.” These words, sent to us by Bill and Maureen Graham, echoed in the hearts and on the lips of our youth as we journeyed to Tulsa, OK in order to serve alongside Contact Church of Christ, Tulsa’s inner-city church. As we walked through the doors of Contact for the first time, our group of 40 was deemed an army - and our youth proved this calling true as they stormed Tulsa with the love of Christ.
Our teens conducted a VBS for 3 different government housing apartment complexes. Despite the 100+ degree heat, I have never seen a group more energized and share more love with children than this one. Many of our youth have grown up on the receiving end of youth groups from across the country coming here for their mission trip. It’s so exciting to see them step-up and be the mission group. Their “impact” on the Tulsa children was evident from the joyous smiles, laughter, hugs, and sad questions of “when are you coming back” that filled the air all week long. The lessons taught and the lessons learned will be eternal. God has conquered the world, and – thanks to Him – Tulsa was not a problem!

“And in Christ you are being built together with his other people. You are being made into a place where God lives through the Spirit.”
-Eph. 2:22 ERV
Somos El Pueblo de Dios
We are the People of God

Let me introduce you to part of our large FAMILIA. You know about the various programs, ministries and activities at Impact, but those are only areas of service done at or through this place. Impact, like any church, is a body of people who meet together to glorify God and build each other up in CRISTO. Within this body are members and friends from all walks of life, but due to our location and mission, our demographic is atypical. One very large portion of that demographic is a group that works and worships together in Spanish.
Though there are many Hispanic churches in the city, Impact is among the largest churches of Christ in Houston with 150-200 members. One of Impact's 6 elders, Dimas Velasqez is Hispanic. He currently is enrolled full time as a student at the Texas Gulf Coast Bible institute where they train men to minister to and plant churches in the Spanish-speaking population. Six of our young Hispanic members are taking night classes at the institute along with Alfredo who drives them down to Pasedena 3 nights a week. Growing churches through cell groups is part of TGCBI’s strategy, and although Impact is an existing church, Dimas is hoping to infuse what he is learning into the DNA of the church here. Steven Wells, the newest bilingual minister is excited about the process, having experienced its success in his church planting efforts in Mexico. He and his wife, Ami are about to begin classes to train members who want to dedicate themselves as small group facilitators. All three Spanish-speaking ministers have attended a class together at the institute; are meeting weekly in a small group of ministers; have developed a strategy; and are working with church members to educate them in the importance of ministering in small groups and celebrating together in the large assembly. Alejandro Arango, who has been ministering with this church since close to its beginning, is offering a class to new Christians on basic principles of the Christian walk. Late September (this weekend), the Hispanic women will be having a retreat to encourage and strengthen their participation and passions in the body.
The Hispanic family at Impact is good at checking on one another and helping meet each others' needs. Weekly, several women volunteer at the Distribution Center. (More than 90% of the families served at the Distibution Center are Hispanic, and many of our members are a result of the contacts made there.) The Tuesday night activities are primarily for the Hispanic families. Other English-speaking Impact members dedicate time to teach children classes allowing adults to concentrate on classes and connecting with other adults. All the activities that are done are with the hopes of glorifying God by being a body that cares for one another and shares the message of hope in Christ to the world.
The Hispanic part of the congregation works towards a unified direction with the English speaking portion. There may be a barrier with the language, and it can be frustrating to not be able to communicate everything that needs to be said, but there is a growing desire to be a body that can overcome. The barrier may dictate a separation in worship, class times, and some areas of service but the body could not function with out ALL members. That is a lesson that needs to echo in our ears. Even with our different gifts, backgrounds, struggles, functions and limitations, we are all nonetheless important in the kingdom of God. May we also echo our thanks for your part in what God does here through Impact through your prayers, contributions, and support. That is what makes a great family, and like the song that we like to sing in our Spanish worship, “Somos el pueblo de Dios.” We are God’s people doing our best to serve our Lord and share God’s truth and His love with the world.

The last Family Night brought a large crowd of new faces. Most of our regular attending families came to enjoy the fun, food and fellowship, but we were surprised by an unexpected number of visitors. (We actually had to go out to get more hotdogs!) One visiting father was so touched by the activities that he felt compelled to give a testimony, encouraging the other families to embrace the importance Impact is placing on family participation.

Making it Her Own

The present head of the Distribution Center, Barbara Mantooth, is settling into her new position. She began her training in May working under the tutelage of Darlene Cervas ( pictured below)who had been at the helm for 17 years. Passing the torch to the eager new administrator was a little difficult for Darlene having cared for and nurtured the program almost since its inception. To many, the Distribution Center was synonymous with “Darlene,” so thinking of the place without her was hard for many to imagine. However, Barbara already is making the office her own, she goes out and talks to the folks in line, she patiently tries to communicate, she provides a soothing demeanor for nervous first-timers, she but she also has learned to put her foot down when necessary. She holds her ground as she makes the weekly orders from the food bank, she wisely sticks to the standards set before her, and she helps people understand the procedures that must be followed to serve everyone best. Somehow, Barbara manages to “lay down the law” while still being genial and communicating great compassion.

The distribution center still serves food to families on Tuesdays, items for the homeless on Wednesdays, clothing for households on Thursdays, and the different ministers take the opportunity to study and pray with all who come through. Every day is begun with prayer and prayer sustains the work throughout each day. God has answered our prayers by sending Barbara here, and continues to answer prayers through the ministry she is shepherding.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rest for the Weary

“Just a simple room, three rows of tables, a T.V., a microwave and “The Word”. From 35 to 60 people every Monday and Wednesday they come from all walks of life. From every area of town—for rest….

Rest from the elements, rest from all the cares of life, rest from emotional and mental scars. Now I know when you look at this room, that physically all you can see is a simple room. But I believe it’s more. I believe these men and women are not just coming to a room. But I believe they are coming to the hands of our loving Lord. It was him who extended the invitation: “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

I believe they are not coming to a room, but to rest. That’s what we want to be about at Impact. We want to be the Lord’s church where there is rest for weary souls!” -Les Rose

Having come in away from the sun, an “outdoorsman” (what we call those who live on the streets) finds refuge, repose and the refreshment of the Word of Life inside an Impact building. Services offered to those who live on the street include meals, Bible studies, counseling, showers, laundry, clothing, food supplies, and lists of other services in the Houston area. The aim is to make a difference in a life today, and change a heart for Christ.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

An Impact Member, who is heroically struggling with cancer right now, was recently mentioned in the Christian Chronicle. Here is what was published:

Barbara Garcia, who is battling cancer, receives encouragement from Jean Salas, a cancer survivor, after services Sunday, Sept. 4, at the Impact Houston church. Charlie Middlebrook, an Impact Houston elder and minister whose wife, Mollie, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, said a special prayer for Garcia during the service. “I just want to thank everybody who’s been helping me because I could not make it without the church,” Garcia told the congregation. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

The past two weeks have been saturated with hospital visits and prayers for health and recovery. Two weeks ago is when we first learned about Mollie. That's hard-hitting enough, for all who know her and Charlie. Yet, God is shining through the way He is showing His strength in her. Around the same time, we learned about Mayra Cuenca, the 14-yr.-old daughter of Onesima, a long time member and current custodial staff member. Mayra was taken to a clinic for a high fever, was rushed to the nearest hospital due to an unusually low blood count, eventually fell to seizures 4 days later needing to be resuscitated twice, and eventually regained consciousness a day or two after. Now, two weeks later she is beginning to move the right side of her body and say a few words. One day she was participating in my Sunday night cell group, and the next day she was in the hospital. Thankfully, things are on a slow but steady upswing, and the once devastated mother is now a pillar of strength, peace, and thankfulness. She, like Mollie Middlebrook and Barbara Garcia, are testimonies to the power of prayer. Onesima is amazed at the support, love, and prayers that have been poured out to her family and just wants to say "Gracias y Thank you."

The Impact family has been rocked by these events, as if their world wasn't teetering enough as it is. Men have been made physically weak with concern. Men, like Darrell Washington, who depends on God's strength and any opportunity to serve up at the building to get him through each day, hang onto every word of news to best know how to pray. Maria Saldana, whose newborn boy is still trying to breath on his own, is redirecting concern to Mayra. Many others are waiting by the phone to take food to family, clean the church building, pay hospital parking expenses, and fervently pray and encourage. People who are struggling with family issues, facing financial horrors, looking desperately for work, fighting the addictions that have destroyed their lives, and then the others who only thought their minor headaches were too difficult to figure out or handle, all came together in different ways and in different times and in different groups to let Barbara, Mollie, Mayra and Onesima know that their hurts and concerns were important to them too. Last week a church shared its struggles. This week a church will share its struggles. Every week the church is to share its struggles, because God wants us all to know that we are not alone. God wants us to know that the ability to "make it" is not on our own, but together, and in Him. Like a prayer partner of mine likes to say, "It’s not about what I can do. Its all about what You can do, Lord." Our weak and feeble prayers, may not seem like much, and really shouldn't, but the power is in He who is listening, and answers.

It is amazing to see people who are hit by hard news and hard times. We want to help, and should do what we can. Prayer however is not just for the desperate. It is for the hopeful. Our hope comes out in praise, but it can also come out in tears. The women that have been mentioned each have been hurt and challenged, but have kept faithful. They are a testimony to the power of God in our lives. The church can and is called to be a great testimony to the power of God in our lives. Keep praying in strength and in weakness, and let God continue to shine through what He wants to bring.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From Guest Blogger Wes Fikes:

God tells us He is our Father. As I grew up, that was great to hear, but I have a dad and he's a good one. So, honestly, that designation God was using to tell me about Himself really had no value for me. Until December 13, 2005. On that day, I became a father myself. I had never before understood, never before experienced having my own son. In my mind I imagined how much fun it would be to be a dad, but I had no idea what was in store.

I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would want him to love me as much as I love him. I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would want him to WANT to be around me. I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would realize I have no real control over that. That is when I understood what God means by calling himself my Father.

My son's name is Samuel Austin. I love him. I understand so many things I only smiled at before - being so proud of Sam that I want to hold him up everywhere I go so everyone can see him; wanting to spend all day with him so I don't miss anything he does whether it is new or something he's done fifty times already; listening to his breathing while he's asleep at 3 in the morning. I didn't get that before. I do now.

I know how God feels when He looks at me. He wants to hold me up for everyone to see and say, "Look at my son! His name is Wes! I love him!" That's it, isn't it? That makes me feel so good: to imagine myself in Sam's place, little and squirmy, and getting embarrassed and tucking my head onto my Daddy's shoulder.

And I'd hold Sam all day, if he'd let me. But, he won't, so I put him down so he can play and explore the world I brought him into. Again, I see my Father God. He wants me close, but also loves to see me out enjoying who it is He made me to be. In my case, Sam and I are quite alike - we both like to explore and see what's out there. If I'm not careful, Sam will crawl out of the living room and go check out some other room - without telling me! I call his name, he turns and looks at me and comes crawling back with a big smile on his face. I'm smitten! When he hits my arms and laughs or makes his own special faces that only he makes, I'm lost, gone. I'm all over him with kisses and tickles and hugs and wrestling.

I want to feel him close to me, using me for his protection and security. I want to feel him relying on my strength to protect him, even from himself when he doesn't realize what he's about to get into. I want to be his daddy. And I get it, now. That's what God means when He says He's my Father. He is all those things and everything else that it means to be a Dad. I love you, Father, and I am excited to be Your son!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Showing the Father's Love

At some churches, good fathers are abundant. At Impact, many young men and women have voids in their souls where that father figure should have been. Some children grow up not knowing who their father was. Others only get to see them occasionally. Some fathers have other families, others are always at work, some are locked away, and still others who fall to their vices are only around to make appearances. They may be there physically, but the man that needs to be there is absent.

Alfredo Mendez was one of those tragic examples. After living his own life, rising and crashing repeatedly due to addictions and poor choices, Alfredo encountered Christ and woke up. At that point, he had reached the bottom. As reality came into focus, he found himself estranged to adult children with families of their own. They would have nothing to do with him. But then, what did he have to offer? Nothing.

So what is different now? Alfredo still lives in a shack and works hard for a very little. But there is something that has changed in Alfredo. Jesus. The shack he lives in is on Impact property so that he can be readily available for any need of the church. The work he does is for a Christian family that led him to Christ. They don’t pay a whole lot, but Alfredo wants to be around them as well. His hours are flexible so that he can be able to work for Impact as well. His greatest passion is what he has found in his service to Christ

The niche that Alfredo has found is in rediscovering a new kind of fatherhood. In a way he has adopted the young people of the church. Throughout the Fall and Spring semesters of the Bible Institute, Alfredo did everything he could to pick up three to six young people every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and take them to evening Bible classes. All of these kids are in great need of a father figure and hero in their lives. Someone who really cares for them today, and cares for their future. These young people know that Alfredo loves them. He loves them unconditionally. He loves them as he is loved, by his heavenly Father. His greatest desire is not that the young men and women that he is helping see him as anything special. His only desire is that they know his Father’s love.

The Father's love is emitted through the heart of Alfredo. The kids he encourages can see it, and others can see it. Even his own family can now finally see it and God has been at work in the mending of those broken relationships. To Alfredo, reconciliation with his family is miraculous. But that is what Our Father wants to do: the impossible. Our Father is present. Our Father is good. Our Father fills any void that might have been, and is in our lives. All we can do is humbly accept His love and do our best to reflect it into the lives of those around us. Alfredo is not perfect, but he has the perfect love of Christ in him and it shows. We are not perfect, but we have the perfect love of Christ when we are in Christ. What a joy to release what He has put inside of us, as we show to others our Father's love.

“…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
-Rom 8:14

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday, August 6, 2006
Highlights: Marina Hernandez was baptized today! She has so much desire to serve Christ here at Impact. Pray that God channels her enthusiasm in a ministry that uses her gifts well.

A portion of the Hispanic worshippers attended an area-wide gathering of Spanish speaking Christians for a "Confraternidad" at Lawndale.

The Oklahoma mission team returned yesterday afternoon, as well as the Camp-of-the-Hills group. We can't wait to hear more and post some pictures.

67 of our Hispanic children were taken in by the First Colony Church of Christ to receive school supplies. A large portion of those were taken there yesterday to go shopping for school clothes as well. Several families sign up every year to go out with these kids and cover a large portion of their back-to-school expenses. Plus, its a LOT of fun for the kids and the "adoptive" families!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"It Seems Like Katrina Only Happened Last Week"
The following was taken from another blogspot of one of Impact's youth ministers, Wes Fikes.
“I just spent 5 days with 14 middle school kids. That is 120 hours of non-stop, around-the-clock, in-your-face attention from 14 kids who have more energy than 50 adults combined. For the first 3 days, we gutted houses in New Orleans. That means, we walked into a house that had been flooded with at least 8 feet of water, and some houses had 12 or 15 feet. The water had subsided months ago, but the damage was still as real as if it had happened yesterday. My kids carried out ruined furniture, shoveled mud and dirt, broken down walls and ceilings and carefully moved salvageable memories for 3 days. At the end of those 3 days, we rested. Destruction is hard work. On the fourth day, Sunday, we worshipped with a local church, then went sight-seeing in New Orleans - Cafe du Monde, the Aquarium, etc. On the fifth day, we came home tired, worn out, but somehow wanting to go back. God is good. I'd like to comment a little on what I saw. The amount of destruction from Katrina is overwhelming. Block after neighborhood block have houses that are still waiting for something to be done to them. As we were gutting a house on our first day, I began to realize the enormity of what happened. And I don't mean on a national, state, or even community scale. I mean the enormity of personal loss and upheaval......I believe this disaster has been monumental for the body of Christ. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, whatever. Differences aside, the body of Christ has taken a huge step in reclaiming its heritage - helping those who cannot help themselves, loving the hopeless and feeding the hungry. I believe the true nature of the church is shining in New Orleans. The church is who is gutting houses. The church is who is sitting with owners and listening to their stories. The church is loving people. The government isn't in there gutting houses. And it's not their job. It is ours, it is the church's. And we are doing it. Not out of obligation, but love.”

Monday, July 24, 2006

Impact Sundays:
Some may still not understand much about what goes on at Impact, and really, no amount of blogging can replace spending time involved with the various minitries. However, we hope that some of our posts will help. Maybe a "day in the life" will give some insight from my perspective. Being the bilingual minister, there is still so much on the English-speaking side that I miss out on, but I tend to get to touch on a variety of the Impact body life just by walking through the building sometimes. Here's what I know that goes on every Sunday.

Sunday morning: I drive in from Kingwood (35 minutes away) and try to do some prep-work for the upcoming activities. Sometimes I get to meet up with the worship team men at McDonalds to eat breakfast, but at least we unite in the prayer room to lift up some songs and put the days plans in God's hands, before getting busy. While some of the "hermanos" set up sound and computer equipment, making last minute changes to songs or PowerPoint items, the rest take off on our routes, picking up members in different parts of the city who don't have means of transportation. Already the building has been cleaned by the custodial staff, the chairs have been arranged by Alfredo and Xavier (who rent a small house on campus), Darrell Washington and Winston Bridges have started doing some things to prep the kitchen, Charlie Lott is setting up the tables in the main hallway to welcome everyone with coffee and a friendly word or two, and the technical team on the English side makes last minute adjustments. Greeters take their posts, ministers and helpers arrive in vans with members. The English worship team meets to go over plans as various bible classes begin. Kids classes for each age are available up through high school. Adults on the English side have a few options for Bible classes, while the Hispanic congregation begins with a time of praise before studying together in their auditorium. (Plans for more options are in the works at this writing. A "New Christians" class is to begin in the next week or two.)

Between class and main assembly is a 15 minute recess where parents gather up children and everyone has a chance to mingle. Assembly time begins at 10:30 or so as members are ushered into their respective auditoriums. Traditional worship services commence with a time of praise, prayer, participation in the Lord's Supper, a message from the Word, and body life announcements. (Once every 6 weeks, the entire congregation meets in the larger auditorium for a bi-lingual assembly.) At the closing of this time, those with special prayer needs are invited to meet in the prayer room where elders and ministers are on hand.

At the last Amen of the Hispanic side's prayer, those members exit as soon as possible to visit and wait in the hallway as their meeting place is rearranged into a dining hall. Several of the "outdoors men" help with the set up along with members and visiting congregations. The visiting group for that week, having come from an area congregation, has come to provide and serve food for the weekly Impact Sunday lunch. (From the beginning, Impact has made a point of having a fellowship meal following Sunday worship assembly. This not only allows those who really need a hot meal a chance to fill their bellies, but it also gives the Impact family a greater opportunity to get to know each other more.) This meal is an example of how Impact is more than just a campus specific entity. Several area churches of Christ are VERY involved in the ministries to the downtown community through Impact. After lunch is over, those with van routes take people home, as others help clean up and put things away. Amazingy enough, the building in fairly quiet by 2:30pm.

Once or twice a month, the Hispanic side invites the church to play soccer in a nearby park. Otherwise, the afternoon is pretty calm. Not much else happens on Sunday in large groups, but several small groups meet on Suday evenings. Where most of those meetings occur in houses where members pray, sing, and discuss scripture and its application before eating together, the Hispanic group meets in the Youth Development Center. The setting is still more informal and is generally followed by refreshments and fellowship or extra prayer. Like I said, this is from my perspective. So much more goes in to the preparation of classes for young and old alike, coordinating meeting areas, directing parking, special meetings, etc. God, however, knows all that goes on, and His hand is guiding it, thankfully.

"Up On the Mountain"
To kick off the Summer, High School minister, Dennis Yaeger took a group on their annual “trek” up a mountain in Colorado. The trip was made possible through funds given to the youth program to allow these young people a chance of a lifetime to see a side of God’s raw majesty like never before. When asked what the coolest part of the trip was, Dennis beamed with pride as he said, “They all made it up.”

All had some problem during the trip, and all saw the climb as impossible. Experiencing the summit helped them realize that they can do more than they can imagine. And now Philippians 4:13 has a powerful, new meaning.


Youth from the Impact Houston Church of Christ traveled to Salida, Colorado earlier this summer to take part in Wilderness Trek, a Christian youth camp that uses mountain climbing as a spiritual motivator for teens and college groups all across America.
The Impact group, made up of 15 teenagers and three sponsors, rappelled a 150 foot cliff and were able to summit a 14,000 foot peak.
The summit consisted of a 26 mile trek up the side of Mt Hope, a mountain in western Colorado, in just over 3 days.
At times the hike became so strenuous that many members of the group were compelled to sit down in the middle of the trail and refused to go any further. Forced to lean on God and each other, the young inner-city group valiantly pressed on, hiking as many as 10 miles per day.
On their second day of hiking as they approached their destination for the night, Kenneth (Ray Ray) O'Neil reached the campsite first. When he realized that some of the others were having difficulty moving up the trail, he immediately began to help the exhausted, by carrying their packs to the campsite. O’Neil said he recognized the situation and just wanted to help out.
“I saw some of the others struggling and just wanted to do what I could to help,” said O’Neil. “It was no big deal, I know they would’ve done the same for me if I’d have been in that situation.”
So much was made of his heroism that the High Camp area for Mt. Hope, was named Camp Ray Ray, in honor of his actions.
After a day of rest, the unified group hiked the remaining six miles to the summit of Mt. Hope. The wind, at times, was almost unbearable, reaching nearly 70 miles per hour. Although the conditions were less than ideal, the view from the top was worth it all, according to senior Sheena Jones.
“About halfway up I was ready to quit,” said Jones. “But once I got to the summit and saw the incredible view, it was totally worth it.”
The question of whether or not those that participated in this year’s trek will return again next year is still in doubt, however the experience gained from the incredible struggle is one that sophomore Jerald Varner says everyone should take part in.
“I think everyone should go on trek at least once,” said Varner. “I mean, it was tough on you both physically and mentally, but you come out it closer to God and closer to your group. It definitely made me a stronger person.”
Despite the incredible hardships faced by the Impact group on their journey, with God’s help they were able to overcome their adversity and accomplish their goals. Trek proved that according to Jeremy Varner.
“You can do anything with God’s help,” said Varner. “You just got to have faith in His power and He will be there when you need Him.”

Just in case you are new to Impact, like me, or are just “out of the loop” in regards to what happens in the summer at Impact, let me give you a run-down as I understand it. Through the generosity of many contributors, and MUCH prayer, Impact is able to have working with them an amazing amount of interns. These high-school and college-age young men and women decide that the best way to spend their summer is to devote all their time and energy to loving and presenting Jesus to the hundreds of local children that come to Impact for VBS. They are trained and led by the youth and childrens ministry staff to sing, play, drive vans and be ready to serve with glad hearts in the millions of different ways they may be called upon to help.
Each week they lend their hearts and talents to the different groups that come in to direct that week’s activities. (Those groups of up to 50 or more youth and sponsors, drive in from various congregations from several different states, often to camp-out for the week at Impact sleeping in the different buildings and classrooms.) Every Sunday a new group goes through orientation and redecorates the campus according to their plans, but all follow the same theme: “Who’s Your Hero? -JESUS!”
Though VBS includes skits, activity stations, songs, games, crafts, entertainment, field trips to cool places all over Houston, a reading program, and lasts for 4 weeks, the greatest part about the whole summer is that they get to spend so much time with people that show them lots of love and attention. The kids at the Impact VBS get to know a bunch of real heroes who don’t accept the credit for being heroes. All credit goes to THEIR hero, their inspiration, their guiding light, and their LIFE.: JESUS CHRIST!

Please pray not only for the remainder of this summer’s VBS, but pray also for the fruit that God will bring from the faithful efforts of so many that made this summer special. Thank you interns, ministers, all the various groups that came to put-on a VBS for us, and thank you all who support this work financially, prayerfully, and administratively.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I want to share with you an article about a special person at Impact. I asked one of our minsters, Les Rose, to write a member profile for the newsletter and was excited about his choice.

" 'Sanctuary: An Impact Memeber Profile'
His name is Lewis Bird. He’s at Sunday morning worship and has only missed maybe three Monday nights of his weekly Bible studies because of illness. Sunday after Sunday he makes his way to the Spanish worship services. Monday after Monday he sings three songs to our class: “Macaroni,” “Peanut Butter,” and he closes with “Sanctuary.”

Even though Lewis is not bilingual, and even though Lewis sings a couple of secular songs, and even though Lewis has the mind of a 6 or 7 year-old….there is something VERY special about him!!! He loves Jesus and he knows how to close our Bible study: “O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary – pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.” Isn’t that the desire of us all? Shouldn’t that be one of our favorite songs, too? How I wish that we who hold down jobs, finance homes, raise children, vote and assemble every Sunday to worship had a simple, loving faith like Lewis Bird.

O Lord prepare US to be a sanctuary."
I know it must be frustrating to visit a blogspot only to find nothing to read there. I'm still learning how to do this, and trying to find time, but I think its worth it.

It is great to be able to learn about a ministry, a church, and a place where God is being glorified. Impact, as I am discovering almost daily, is an amazing place that serves a myriad of different needs (homeless, the poverty-stricken, immigrants, and people in desparate situations), it is a body of Christians learning more and more about living and growing in diversity, and in all that is done here, the purpose of putting God first is what sets Impact apart from other institutes that serve the community in downtown Houston.

To learn some more about what goes on at Impact, check out its website and look for updates of the newsletter: www.impacthouston.org
I am in the process of updating this blog. Here is a brief report of happenings in May, sans photos.

Recent blessings at Impact within the last month (May).

* 3 more baptisms
* 1 more family to place membership on the Hispanic side
* Reeling from successes of Garage Sale and Celebration dinner
* The pleasure of a large, well organized group from Kingwood to serve one of the best Sunday lunches of the year: great food, great smiles, and kids with matching t-shirts!
* The beginnings of plans to implement small groups. (One group of ministers already in training to begin a “prototype cell.”)
* New children’s ministers selected (to be officially announced in two weeks.)
* New Distribution Center administrator selected: Barbara Mantooth
* 7 high school graduates honored
* Summer interns arriving as summer activities begin
* Recent visits from former Impact ministers, Calvin Henry and Steve Austin

These are highlights from a general perspective. God, however, is moving in the hearts and lives of families and individuals whose rollercoaster lives are filled with incredible struggles. The simplest blessings, in contrast, shine brighter when life seems bleakest. Faith grows stronger when the test is harder. Messages are sinking in, relationships are being mended, problems are being faced, hope comes alive, patient, persistent faith is being built even when God’s answer is, “Wait, and trust me.”

Keep praying for the people at Impact who need someone to reach out to them, and for those who are there ready to extend a hand.